The next president stands to lead a nation beset. One in the grip of severe economic trouble, whose world position is in doubt, whose political life is too often a distraction and an acid, a cause and an expression of our deep pessimism.
But although America is falling from itself, it is not yet fallen. And so in this election especially, progress has become more than a motto. It is a necessity, our duty to ourselves.
That is why, with full confidence, The Chronicle formally endorses Barack Obama for president.
It gives us no particular relish to oppose John McCain. He is an honorable and accomplished public servant. Before the experience of the campaign re-fashioned him in the image of George W. Bush, McCain was an attractive candidate.
Yet as a choice about character, substance and principle, there is no question that Obama should lead the country.
There should be no preconditions to diplomacy, but there is a precondition to material political change. That is a more fundamental change in attitude.
Throughout his political life, Obama has been a measured, intelligent and steady man. As his campaign has demonstrated, he values consensus over division, talent over party and honesty over convenience.
He is self-aware and sensitive to the complexity of the world. He does not have all the answers. But-and this quality is not to be belittled-he puts the nation in dialogue with its richest aspirations and ideals.
Many of the substantive differences between Obama and McCain are those that distinguish Democrat from Republican. Here, too, Obama is the right choice.
His plans to increase the national investment in education, to make college more affordable and to enhance early childhood education are crucial to the future of the nation.
Healthcare is a universal right, and Obama's plan to increase access to it is admirable.
His proposal to increase taxes on the rich is necessary. In a time when the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer, Obama's tax strategy would help the poor more than it would hurt the rich. This is a matter of social justice.
Obama was right to oppose the Iraq War in the first place. Of less importance, he was wrong to have opposed the surge. But Obama's moderate proposal to extricate America from Iraq and to re-focus on Afghanistan, at long last, is widely accepted as the correct course of action for both countries.
Obama promises to reverse this country's self-destructive neglect of global warming by stepping up regulation on industry and making massive investments in alternate sources of energy. This encounter with reality was long overdue.
His unconditional opposition to Guantanamo Bay and torture in general are humane.
Finally, Obama's pursuit of international diplomacy is essential in order to maintain the country's position in the world, preserve its alliances and achieve its political goals.
To select a president is to endorse a political ideology and a character. At a more profound level, it is to take a stand.
Obama's election would be a forceful statement, a proclamation of restoration, on civility, on America's engagement with the world and on race.
It would be a great affirmation, too, of this country's central political value: the willingness to overcome and to progress.
As college students, we have a special stake in this election. Its outcome will frame the national political culture throughout our entire adult lives.
Of course we harbor no illusions about Obama's ability to transform the country. This election is not the end. It i no more than the end of the beginning.
But we also judge that Obama is ready to restore and inspire and lead the nation back to the best in its character.